Google Ads made a lot of changes in 2023. With new campaign types, Broad Match keyword mapping becoming more refined, and the switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), there are almost too many to count. One of these changes that you may have missed is the way that Google Ads certifications are earned. The new process may make getting Google Ads certifications a much more difficult yet rewarding task.
For those who don’t know, Google’s software Skillshop is a platform designed to prepare you to start your Google Ads campaigns. Skillshop offers comprehensive articles and videos on Google Ads. It’s a whole virtual lesson plan where you can learn at your own pace. For your convenience, Google has broken down the courses into smaller, minute-sized chunks.
There are lessons on Search campaigns, Display campaigns, shopping, and so on. Once you complete the lessons, you’ll need to take an exam to actually earn the certification. This is where Google has made changes.
Currently, Google requires all users who take their Professional exams to record themselves for the duration of the test. The Professional exams are for a new set of Google certifications that dive deeper into the mechanics of Google Ads compared to the standard exams. Google’s disclaimer before the exam states that all users must:
- Take a picture of your photo ID;
- Take a picture of your face;
- Record a video of yourself taking the test
This is all because a live proctor will be monitoring you via your webcam and screen-sharing software. If the proctor notices any unauthorized behavior from the test taker, they are allowed to pause the exam. They will send you a message to confirm you are following Google’s exam rules. While this does sound vague, Google has laid out a list of their guidelines for taking the exam. The list includes the following:
- You are not allowed to have open books;
- You are not allowed to have notes;
- You are not allowed to use scratch paper;
- You are not allowed to take bathroom breaks;
- You are not allowed to use a handheld calculator, as there is a calculator built into the test;
- You are not allowed to use headphones;
- You are not allowed to wear hats;
- You can take your exam in a public area without any people in the background;
- Moderate background noise is allowed
Compared to the proctored exams that many students took online during the height of COVID-19 (when these types of exams became mainstream), these guidelines are very similar. Thankfully, they’re allowing background noise so users can listen to music or podcasts. I know working in complete silence is not my preference. Note again that this is for the Professional certifications, not the Standard certifications
As more businesses turn to advertisers and agencies for their Google Ads, Professional certifications are an additional way for specialists to present their skills.
In addition to the exams being proctored, the other big change with the Professional exams is that they aren’t free. Starting Jan 1st, 2024, advertisers must pay to take the professional exams. This means that it’s even more in advertisers’ best interests to ace the exams on the first try. In effect, not only will you have to wait at least two weeks to retake the exam, you’ll have to pay again.
Fortunately, Google has not made these exams mandatory for anyone seeking to be a Google Partner (a certification for advertising agencies and third parties who manage Google Ads on behalf of other businesses). The professional exams do not count towards earning the Partners badge; the status quo remains in place where only the standard exams count towards Partner requirements.
While proctored professional exams aren’t the biggest change Google has made this year, they shouldn’t be completely ignored. They’re a signal that Google could make further changes to the certification process. Google could eventually phase out the standard exams, similar to Universal Analytics being phased out for GA4. The new exams aren’t a huge shift in the big picture of Google Ads, but for agencies or people looking to earn their Google Ads certifications in the future, they’re worth keeping an eye on.